Networking has changed in the last five years with the development of social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and the big strength of the FT Guide to Business Networking – How To Use The Power Of Online and Offline Networking For Business Success by Heather Townsend is the concept of joined-up networking.
Who Is Heather Townsend?
I’d better declare my interest upfront. Heather is one of the members of my coaching mastermind and she even mentions me and the mastermind in the book. I must admit it’s rather nice seeing your name in print.
Heather specialises in helping professional service partners and want-to-be partners (like accountants and lawyers) to become more successful and offline networking has been a traditional way of meeting prospective clients.
Although the FT Guide To Business Networking book is written for to the professional services market, I’d say that at least 95% of its content will apply for any business who wants to get more out of its networking.
If you want to contact Heather, you should go to her Joined Up networking website.
Why Networking Is So Important
Personally I think that networking organisations like BNI are a bit like marmite – you either love them or hate them – and if you hate them, then they damage the concept of networking.
Let’s go back to fundamentals.
What Is Networking?
Heather defines networking as “Meeting people and interacting with them. Effective business networking is the process of building up mutually beneficial relationships for your career or business” (page 7 of the FT Guide To Business Networking).
The key words are mutually beneficial relationships.
Networking is about who you know and how you can help them and how they can help you.
These relationships are important for every business and all the time, but building these relationships is particularly important for business start-ups. There’s so much to do and the more helping hands you can get, the easier it is to get on the right track and to stay on it.
In fact thinking carefully about your relationships is one of the big factors in deciding what business to start.
The Networking Opportunity Score
In the book, Heather introduces the concept of the networking opportunity score which is a formula of four factors:
- Personal brand
- Social capital
It’s an important concept because if you’ve been busy networking and not had the success you want, then it can help you to diagnose what’s going wrong.
Common Networking Mistakes
Some people don’t know enough people and are therefore not known by enough people.
Others know lots of people but have failed to develop a clear personal brand. You may have met some people like this. You think they are nice and friendly, perhaps even charming but you don’t understand what it is they do. They’ve told you – perhaps lots of times – but you don’t get it. Or perhaps you understand in general but you don’t understand what makes them special. I think a lot of accountants and solicitors can fall into this category and it’s fine if you only know one but a big problem if you know a few.
The most important point in the networking opportunity score is credibility.
This is a problem if you know lots of people and they know what you do… but there’s a problem. They don’t believe you. There’s something that is making people wary and it’s usually due to factors that contradict what you say.
A classic example that I talk about is the “I’m an expert in everything” syndrome. The truth is that the more things that you say you are an expert in, the less people believe you (unless they know you’ve got the intelligence of Albert Einstein). You can be knowledgeable and know more than the person you’re talking to but that doesn’t make you an expert.
Or credibility may be lost because your words and actions don’t match. Think of the anti-cancer campaigner smoking 60 cigarettes a day, the overweight fitness instructor or the thin chef – you know Nigella Lawson is passionate about food.
Consistency Online & Offline
The nice thing about the networking opportunity score is that you can see how it applies to offline and online networking separately and combined. When I meet someone I think is interesting, the first thing I do when I get back is to look them up online.
I read another book recently, Dare To Be Different where the author recommends continually moving your elevator speech to what looks most appropriate for the person you’re talking to. I think you need to be careful and keep a constant brand identity although you’ll tilt it to be relevant.
My Overall Thoughts On The FT Guide To Business Networking
This networking book by Heather Townsend is excellent for anyone who is just starting out in business and is thinking about networking as one way to find customers or for anyone who isn’t getting the results they want from networking.
Generally networking is a low cost, high time activity so it’s important that you measure your return on investment accurately. There are always more things that you could be doing.
Heather talks about classifying people you meet into three categories so that you can focus on the most important relationships. This is essential.
Effective networking has never been a numbers game – it’s not about how many business cards you collect at a face to face meeting or how many Twitter followers you’ve added in the last month.
It’s about building mutually beneficial relationships and how you’ve strengthened existing relationships and started new ones. This book is a practical guide, packed with tips on how you can develop these relationships online and offline
I recommend you read the FT Guide To Business Networking by Heather Townsend. you can get your copy from Amazon.co.uk (affiliate link). At the time of writing, there are 24 five star reviews and I haven’t written mine yet.
Have You Read The FT Guide To Business Networking by Heather Townsend?
Do you agree with me and the many reviewers on Amazon that it is an excellent read?
Do you think that joined-up networking is an important concept which stitches together activities that often drift apart?
Or would you have liked to have seen more information about a particular aspect of networking?
Paul Simister is a business coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.